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Posts Tagged ‘banyan tree’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 61                                Consecutive Days Blogging: 62

Today’s Mileage: 5                                           Total Trip Mileage: 535

The red line marks our progress.

As I ride the bike today we are preparing to pull into our twelfth pilgrimage site.  Today’s site is unique and some people might question why it warrants a designation as a spiritual pilgrimage site. We are stopping at the Edison Museum and Winter Estates in Fort Myers Florida.  The roadways we have travelled are populated by a great many churches, but finding sites that speak to the wider array of expressions of spirituality can be more challenging.  I happened upon the Edison Winter Estate site at the same time I was researching the Koreshan Unity Village Site we visited last week. 

In the lab!

With the Koreshan movement we had a charismatic leader and followers who combined religious revelations with quasi- scientific thinking to create a utopian dream. At the same time just thirty miles up the road, we find Thomas Edison, who many would view as the archetypical inventor, solving the world’s problems in practical ways.  Through his innovations he created a new world of electrical lights, phonographs, and movies. He accomplished his feats with little formal education and a lot of hard work.  Edison is often cited as an example of ingenuity, perseverance, and a “get it done” practicality. Among his many quotes that adorn bumper stickers, t-shirts and office walls are: “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” and “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” He was not theoretical like Einstein; he was practical, hardworking and no-nonsense. “”Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  He reframed the whole concept of failure: “I have not failed. I’ve just fond 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

First Banyan tree in the US planted by Edison in his garden.

His personal spirituality and approach to the divine is less clear. I’ve found references that labeled him as an atheist, an agnostic, a freethinker and a deist.  He attended a Congregational church near his home which in memorial to his membership changed it name to Thomas Edison Congregational Church.

 In a New York Times Magazine interview conducted in 1910 he stated: “Nature is what we know. We do not know the gods of religions. And nature is not kind, or merciful, or loving… nature made us – nature did it all – not the gods of the religions.”  These remark generated a great deal of controversy, and although he did not allow himself to be drawn into a public discussion he clarified himself in a private letter by stating: “You have misunderstood the whole article, because you jumped to the conclusion that it denies the existence of God.  There is no such denial, what you call God I call nature, the Supreme intelligence that rules matter.”

Edison statue with Banyan tree.

His involvement with causes such as nonviolence and Civitan appears to attest to his belief in the importance of social action over professed beliefs. A visit to his winter home site also emphasizes the importance he placed on nature, with his beautiful gardens, dock into the bay and cherished Banyan trees. All of this make one wonder if he represents a scientific thinker who experienced moments of nature mysticism.

 Again I am struck by the synchronicity of my site visits. With one site we find a cult-like community, dreaming of changing the world based upon religious revelations and questionable scientific theory.  Its “New Jerusalem” is now a state park housing RVs and sun worshipers. Existing at the same time and just a few  miles away, we find an individual embedded in a practical science, who was described as logical, reasoning and creative.  He surrounded himself with the beauty and inspiration of nature and changed the world! 

Edison provided a source of light, helped capture visual and auditory memories for future generations, provided inspiring words and left us a pilgrimage site that attests to the power of perserverance, creativity and engagement with the world around us. 

Fort Myers' sunset.

To visit the Site please click on the tab at the top of this page labelled Pilgrimage Sites. A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.

 The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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